Written By Eva Crabtree, Contributing Writer for InFluential Magazine
What is the MIND diet?
In 2015, a dedicated team of researchers from Rush University, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and the National Institute on Aging came together to conduct a study into the impact of diet on brain health decline.
They combined elements of the Mediterranean diet and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) to create the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet. The reason DASH and the Mediterranean diet was selected is because several scientific studies have determined that both these diets already benefit both physical and mental health.
The MIND diet study involved testing over 600 participants of all different heights and weights over the course of a three year period. Researchers then assessed the impact on their brain health and analysed the results.
What’s the purpose of the MIND diet study?
The purpose of the MIND diet study was to encourage people to eat a selection of foods that have been found to prevent a decline in brain health and reduce the chance of developing neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers were keen to find out whether eating large quantities of some foods and reduced quantities of others had a significant or minor effect on brain health.
Upon completion of the study, it was found that following the MIND diet had a significant impact on the participants’ brain health – the exact result the researchers we hoping for.
Participants that closely followed the diet were found to have reduced their chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease by an average of 53% compared to those that followed it the least. However, it was also concluded that even participants that only moderately followed the MIND diet over the 3 year period also saw their chances of developing dementia reduced by 35%.
Although all studies that have been conducted around the MIND diet so far have had similar positive results, more research is yet to be carried out.
To eat or not to eat
As with any diet, there are certain foods that are encouraged on the MIND diet because of their beneficial impact on brain health – there are also foods that should be limited.
So, here are the foods you should be eating:
- Fish: Oily fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines should be eaten a minimum of once per week.
- Poultry: Turkey and chicken are 2 of the leanest meats available. Try to eat them at least twice per week.
- Wine: It’s also recommended that you consume a small glass of red wine everyday because it contains the compound resveratrol which has been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
- Green leafy vegetables: Aim to eat 6 or more servings of green leafy vegetables each week including spinach, kale, cooked greens and salad.
- Other vegetables: Non-starchy vegetables should also be eaten once a day, as well as the green leafy vegetables.
- Olive oil: Instead of using butter, margarine and other oils, try to use olive oil as your main cooking oil.
- Nuts: Five or more servings of a variety of plain nuts is recommended 5 or more times per week when following the MIND diet.
- Whole grains: Whole grains, like oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa, should be eaten 3 times a day.
- Beans: 4 meals each week should contain a form of beans such as lentils, beans and pulses and soybeans.
- Berries: Berries contain antioxidants that are beneficial for both physical and mental health. Try to eat them at least 2 times per week.
Here are the foods you should avoid eating too often because they contain high amounts of saturated fat – evidence has shown that saturated fat has a negative effect on brain health.
- Red meat
- Butter and margarine
- Pastries and sweets
- Fried food
How does the MIND diet reduce the possibility of brain health decline and dementia?
Unstable molecules, known also as free radicals, gather in large quantities in the body which can cause cell damage. The brain is most vulnerable to this damage. Additionally, even though inflammation is one of the many ways the body heals injury and infection, if not regulated, it can do more damage than good – especially in the brain.
Following the MIND diet decreases oxidative stress and inflammation in the body and brain, hence, reducing the possibility of brain health decline and neurod